Obvious…but we didn’t know…

A book reviewer wondered about the lack of practical advice and how-to hints in OUR LIFE OFF THE GRID book.  They wanted to know more ‘instructions’ and wanted to get ‘advice’.   The assumption, of course, is that after having done the move and the building and then following that up with the actual residing and living, we might know a thing or two about living OTG.  And, we do.  One thing.  Maybe two.  Precious little, actually.  It was and still is largely a crap shoot in chaos with unpredictable and confusing feedback.

We’re still sorting the data….

But it is fun!  That’s conclusion  #1.  Number two: we’re gonna keep playing at it at least until we get the hang of it.  Which, judging from our chaos level so far, I am estimating will take 30 or so more years.

And I am mostly serious.  I am mostly not kidding.  Organized chaos, perhaps? That is how we feel about it still.  We are STILL learning after all these years.  Still enjoying each other’s company and we are still having lots to do.  So, we’re good.

But what of the advice they asked for, …really?  Well, there is no advice as to whether to do it or not.  There are no facts, data or lessons that prove the concept.  A crapshoot is a crapshoot.  Still, I do have a little advice…..

Don’t commit to it.  Taste it, instead.  Get a cabin.  Rent a cabin, even.  BE here (or there). TRY it. See if it works for you.  I think you will need at least one six-month full-on immersion to get a feel. Two years of summer cottaging MIGHT do it but it is not quite the same as being on the ‘spot’ longer than the summer folks…ya gotta know what it’s like when you are so much more on your own and that happens when the weather changes.

If you build, consider this concept: ZONE-living.  Plan for a small house, well insulated with a good kitchen, bathroom and one large bedroom.  Maybe a small living area.  Then, just outside of that, a bigger, still-insulated space that serves as a big living area and veranda-kinda thing. Space for the service room (electrical, freezer, mud, etc).  All of those two areas are under on big roof. Outside of that, a large covered area (maybe even under the same BIGGER roof but it is airy, open, maybe screened in some sections.

Think: wrap-around porch.  It gets cold out there in winter.  Then, outside of that, deck. Lots of deck.  Decks for BBQ’ing, working, sitting. Decks, decks, decks.   Maybe some potted plants, arbor, umbrellas but, basically, open deck.

Then you transition to the ‘outside-but-close’ area in which are the sheds, workshops, storage, water, greenhouse, genset shed, guest room with second bathroom….the kind of space that is ‘steps’ away from the main house but not yet ‘somewhere else’.  Outside of that is compost, fruit trees, gardens, lawn (if you must) and basically an area that your dog might consider the pack’s immediate domain.

Finally, a less-than-full-bush buffer zone between the dog’s empire and the wild forest. The wild forest is the place where you feel you are NOT home.  If it feels like home at all, it is still transition zone.

These living zones are the actual zones we have.  Or feel.  We do NOT really have them; NOT by design, anyway.  But that IS the way we use our space.  If I had to do it over, the house would have been a bit smaller and we would have more ‘outdoor-rooms’ before getting to the covered deck area and so on.  Why?  Because as the season cools, we hunker more around the wood stove.  When it gets warmer, we move out.  The stove stays off from May til October.  The outdoor temperature regulates where we stay.  If it is chilly, we are inner.  If it is sunny, we are closer to the outdoors.  By summer-time, we are almost always outdoors.

How big is a small inner house?  For us, 1000 sft.

Then we started spreading.  If you add up all the space we think of ‘living space’, we are at 2500-3000 sft.  By the time the dog lets go of his patrolling responsibility, we are at two acres.  75 – 90,000 sft.  I have no idea if this is typical or not but my immediate neighbours (who live very different annual schedules than we do) are not too dissimilar.  Each ‘influences’ an acre or so.  Each ‘lives’ like we do – in, when it is cold.  Out when it is warm.

It isn’t rocket science but it is something we were NOT conscious of when we started. The above-described zones are something we learned-while-doing.  It would constitute advice in the sense that you are NOT likely to live like you do in the city, in well-defined spaces and boundaries.  In or out.  Out here, you will live to your natural space and that described above is what we grew into.

Advice!  Insufferable, isn’t it?

7 thoughts on “Obvious…but we didn’t know…

  1. Your blog pages offer advice at your click on “Off the grid resources” or ” Off the grid friendly items” but as you know every one is a critic. You could have written a section on the transmutation of metals but someone would criticize you for not having a system that changes sea water into gasoline. Some days you just can not win for trying.

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    • Thanks. I was a smidge sensitive the first time I mentioned it but this time I was wondering if I really could offer any advice and the truth is: we just ain’t good enough at this lifestyle yet. Those few products I can endorse is not much advice, really. Hard to go wrong with recommending Honda. We’re still learning like freshmen (altho I think we are really sophomores ’cause of our extra-softness) about all sorts of things. It is still an adventure. No expertise to speak of yet.

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      • I’d say your advise is far more applicable to the average Joe (or jane) that wants to live off the grid. Because your learning as you go and can share your mistakes and successes. Nothing worse than working hard at something and having some schnook take one look at it and say,
        ” Geez, Why did you do it THAT way?”
        I have more respect for people that admit they arent perfect and dont have an answer for everything than certified engineers or accountants ( who pass theoretical examinations to attain their “enlightenment”) that curl their upper lip into a smirk and then only ask questions that they have the answers for…..

        Your comments on house size are enlightening. Im starting to draw up plans for a small house and I like your reasoning. Another reason for less interior space?
        Fewer guest rooms = fewer guests :)-

        Keep up the good work. The silent majority appreciates it.

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  2. I love my Honda Jenny so much, I bouhgt two! One for the sailboat, one for the converted motor home ( international military transport Thomas Built bus, I even installed a wood stove) 400sq ft ‘inside’ room is more my feel, as smaller spaces are so much more cozy. Easy to reach almost anything, and I like storage under the seats. Less is More!

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  3. Isn’t that what Majere kept telling us, without telling us? It is a learning experience. With a sense of humor.

    I liked the ‘zone’ concept description. That is rarely discussed.

    Again, I also liked the ‘mindset’ in the book.

    IF, and I would not advise it, you take on some of the ‘how-to’, and ‘what-to’, then I would suggest you answer a question I had. You have solar and wind electric generation. You have a working ram suppling water. Why did you not do hydro? Was it an issue of 1+1+1? (I recall you writing that combining the solar and wind befuddled you.)

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    • Are you kidding me? How-to to the OOMs??!! That’s sillier than taking coals to Newcastle or noodles to China! You guys know everything! And, if you don’t, your library does.
      But, since you ask (and I KNOW it is not about how-to, it is what is wrong with that English?), the answer is simple. Our stream is a kilometer (5/8 mile) away. Line loss. Not to mention difficult terrain. And the solar is working like a hot dam. The wind gen just doesn’t do enough to warrant it being there but we tried. Solar is keeping us in the game 9 days out of ten and, even then, the genset is just on to supplement on wash-day. I was thinking of hydro and transforming to a high voltage for easier transport but, honestly, I do not really need even more solar. We are good. If Elon Musk comes up with better batteries, I may just ‘kick us up’ a notch – say, 1000 more watts?
      I am so glad you liked the book. It is the epitome of newbie to you guys, I am sure, but that was half the fun…stumbling around…learning…knowing that I could go in to the librum and read up if got tired of trying on my own.
      And Majere was right! Laughing all the way is the way to go.
      Thanks, Sarah. Glad you wrote. Regards to all.

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